Liberal candidate dumped over anti-Muslim online posts

While Liberal Senator Eric Abetz keeps watch at the rear, party handlers insulate Jessica Whelan from the press in Tasmania on Thursday.

While Liberal Senator Eric Abetz keeps watch at the rear, party handlers insulate Jessica Whelan from the press in Tasmania on Thursday. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas

The Liberal party has dumped Tasmanian candidate Jessica Whelan after fresh anti-Muslim social media posts under her name emerged overnight.

Ms Whelan, who was running for the seat of Lyons, earlier denied responsibility for at least one Islamophobic remark on Facebook.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the posts appeared to have been “doctored” and the case had been referred to the Federal Police.

After more screenshots emerged of inflammatory posts, Liberal campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham confirmed she would be disendorsed on Friday.

The ABC reported the Liberal Party later released a statement:

“Clearly these posts are inappropriate, and the Liberal Party was not aware of their existence until they were reported.

“Therefore, she has offered her resignation as a candidate and the Liberal Party has accepted it.”

The decision to drop Ms Whelan comes after police on Thursday night confirmed they had not received the the “doctored” Facebook posts, despite the Prime Minister insisting they been called in to investigate.

The New Daily confirmed with AFP sources that as of 9pm on Thursday there was no referral to the relevant line area of the posts by Ms Whelan.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison insisted on Thursday night “it’s being referred’, but could not explain when or by whom. Ms Whelan first claimed she was referring the matter to “authorities” on Wednesday afternoon.

One of the posts that has put Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan at the centre of a storm.

In a statement, the AFP said it “is aware of media reporting in relation to this matter.”

Asked if the posts had been referred, the AFP told The New Daily it had “no further comment” on the Prime Minister’s statement.

Ms Whelan is accused of making anti-Muslim posts on Facebook that she claims are fake and doctored.

Fresh anti-Muslim posts emerged late on Thursday, in which Ms Whelan calling for debate on closing Australia’s borders to Muslims. Ms Whelan has only denied authorship of a single anti-Muslim post to date.

Asked if Ms Whelan should step down on Thursday, the Prime Minister said the matter was now in the hands of police.

“On Jessica Whelan, the imagery that we’ve found or that has been presented to us appears to have been doctored, so what Jessica has done is this matter has been referred to the Australian Federal Police,” Mr Morrison said.

“So that’s a matter that will be, is being referred, I should say, to the Australian Federal Police. This is a matter that will be subject to an investigation.”

Questions emerged on Thursday over whether Ms Whelan had written some Facebook posts on the Labor opposition leader Rebecca White’s page, which Labor insisted could not have been doctored.

“This is all being referred to the Federal Police,” Mr Morrison said.

Rolling chaos

There were chaotic scenes as Ms Whelan dodged the travelling media at an event in Tasmania with the Prime Minister.

At one point, the Prime Minister’s own media staff attempted to provide a human shield around the embattled candidate to stop her from being forced to answer questions from the media.

She was then rushed through the rain to a waiting getwaway car, driven by the Liberal Party state director Sam McQuestin.

Asked why she had declined to answer questions, the Prime Minister said it was entirely reasonable.

“Because (a) we’re in Bass and (b) we weren’t doing a press conference earlier today. She’s issued a statement to the effect of what I’ve just said,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s hard to believe in this day and age that the images can be doctored.”


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